Falling asleep without control. Crumbling to floor from any sudden emotion. Disrupted nighttime sleep. Misunderstanding and discrimination. Loss of benefits. Help us improve lives!
Imagine how you'd feel if you hadn't slept for three days. Now imagine living with that overpowering urge to sleep day after day, not knowing why, embarrassed and ashamed of something you cannot control.
If your imagination is vivid enough, you may have an inkling of Rosemary's world prior to being diagnosed with narcolepsy, a neurological sleep disorder that affects approximately 1 in 2000 people and typically begins in adolescence. Ridiculed in school, then at work for her sleepiness, Rosemary learned to avoid sleep-inducing activities such as movie-going, reading and dining out. She withdrew in social situations.
Rosemary's quest for help led her in many futile directions, from vitamins, and thyroid pills to hypnosis, which just put her to sleep. Even short naps in restrooms improved her symptoms only marginally. These included excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (the sudden loss of muscle tone brought on by emotions), sleep paralysis (a momentary inability to move when waking up of falling asleep) and hallucinations -- intense, vivid, life-like dreams which occur while falling asleep and/or waking.
Since being diagnosed with this life-long disorder, Rosemary has combined medications and planned naps to manage her narcolepsy symptoms. The quality of her life has improved dramatically.